“Sound Is My Servant”

27 12 2006

I see words typed out letter by letter behind my eyes, which is how I spell well, and remember names. It’s not photographic exactly (wish it were!) but literally literate, as in books and the written word. “Born reader” fits me to a T.

And I had no idea that my way of word-thinking wasn’t the only way, until one day I did make room for that radical possibility and started talking to my folks and friends about it, which led me into education theory, and more recently talking with my own children, who as it turns out, DON’T experience thought, much less the world, as I do.

My kids don’t see each word typed out as they think them, and find it hysterically weird that I do, although they do love to read and are natural spellers and writers.

I think Favorite Daughter learns from sounds more than I do. But we noticed when Young Son was a toddler that his ears are his supercharged learning tool–he’s an uncanny mimic and recites completely (including inflection, instrumentation and sound effects!) after only one or two exposures to something he particularly enjoys hearing.

So perhaps it shouldn’t have startled us all speechless–but it did–when on Christmas afternoon, taking turns laughing and mugging for the new handycam as we played board games and fixed dinner, Young Son (age 11) remarked matter-of-factly and with odd dignity — “sound is my servant.”


Would you explain that to the camera, please?

He did. And this is what he said. (Not word for word because *I* do not have perfect aural recall — help, please, if any of you think this way or have children who do; I’m enchanted as mom but as educator, I’m out of my element on this one!)

“Sound is my servant. I hear a number being itself in its sound — like with bell chimes, the third one sounds like thr-r-eee.” He makes the sound that it makes to him.

I remember something equally strange to me (from READING it, not hearing it) on Pam and Sandra’s unschool discussion list, about people who naturally associate colors with numbers — it has a fancy scientific name, synesthesia. But sounds? Does any of this “sound” natural to any of you?


UPDATE – Favorite Daughter now tells me her top learning strength is visual, but not typed word-visual, more like whole pictures that might have text in them but are not merely text. She remembers detailed snapshots of whole views like (as she says) Claudia in the Newberry Medal-winning book, The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. “That’s why I don’t use bookmarks,” she says. “I will know the page when I see it.”

UPDATE II – FavD says she often hears her own thoughts in the past-tense, as first-person narrative. “I thought perhaps this was all some psychological reaction but then I caught myself thinking that.” She says she thinks in other narrative devices too, such as identifying people by description tags (my best friend, my dad) rather than the names she would call them out loud. She is living her own real life as the power of story she’s living in! This I completely get. 🙂

Do We Teach Change As Catastrophe?

27 12 2006

” Catastrophism is back as a respectable concept, so much so that
it is now the preordained conclusion we leap to, and therefore,
of which we must be wary. . .”

No, the scholarly phrase “early contact” doesn’t mean preschool in this 20-year-old treatise, but I see a message in it about education politics and cultures and power of story.

A Nation at Risk and much of the change it spawned in the last quarter-century was public school catastrophism, wasn’t it? Unschooling and homeschooling are thought by professors like Reich and Apple, to be a catastrophic threat to school’s social order. And I’ve learned the hard way over the past ten years or so, that home education advocacy is no exception to catastrophic education thought — its uneasy libertarian culture often seems rooted in catastrophic –cataclysmic!– assumptions and conclusions, almost as if change by definition constitutes a powerful force conspiring against liberty:

In place of the 19th-century apotheosis of the concept of evolutionary, gradual change, catastrophism (i.e. large-scale change within narrow time limits) . . .has returned, thanks to Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Einstein, Fermi, Oppenheimer. . .

“The Big Bang” has usurped “steady state” among cosmologists. Astronomers commonly talk about galaxies in collision. Astronomers, geologists, and paleontologists gather together to confer about asteroids and comets raining down on earth every twenty-six million years or so, wiping out most species, and thus providing
room for a surge of speciation.

And everybody, seemingly, is
stricken with fear of the threat of the thinning ozone layer,
paired with the greenhouse effect of too much carbon dioxide.
Catastrophism is back as a respectable concept, so much so that
it is now the preordained conclusion we leap to, and therefore,
of which we must be wary. . .